It seems Nuclear Power is on the agenda, potentially as a necessary part of our future. No surprise really with the accusation of hypocrisy levelled at the Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett.
Here is what I wrote about Mid-2007
Larvatus Prodeo is having a thorough discussion on Nuclear power, so I thought I would try a different tack and tact.
The Canadian Deuterium Uranium reactor type is probably the best choice if Australia is to pursue a nuclear future.
This type of reactor and generating facility has a projected service life of over 60 years which means including establishment cost, commissioning cost, maintenance cost and decommissioning cost its projected wholesale power cost in current prices is $0.0356 au per kilowatt hour. The current NEMMCO wholesale purchase price is $0.115 au per kilowatt hour, as this is approximate to three times the cost commercial power generators will be attracted to this investment opportunity. It should be noted that the cost of power generation by Nuclear means in Canada is 0.0260 $per kWh but the industry is has greater development and infrastructure.
The CANDU 9 has a double valance enclosure around the reactor containment vessel and uniquely the heavy water moderator is also the medium for critical fission, as the moderator, its temperature, density and level in the reactor are controlling the process. A simple thermometric and pressure activated valve system make this reactor impossible to meltdown or suffer other catastrophic failure, excluding deliberate sabotage or attack. The double valance enclosure ensures that with the exception of specific military deep penetration ordinance it has a one point failure rating, thus minimizing the risk of nominal terrorist action. The fuel used in this reactor is un-enriched uranium but it is also capable of using transuranics as a partial source, thus allowing the reactor to continually recycle old fuel until full fission is completed, it also allows the use of plutonium and other wastes generated from external sources to be incorporated into the fuel.
The operating temperature of the CANDU 9 is 290 degrees Celsius, substantially below critical heat levels found in many other reactors. This has the desirable effect of extending metallurgical stability, eliminating the risk of burn through or containment failure and giving a high degree of flexibility to operational parameters.
The ability to recycle wastes and other transuranics such as plutonium is also a desirable feature, in many nations the partial fission caused by the use of Fast Breeder and similar reactors has produced a storage problem, it has also created the possibility of Nuclear Arms Proliferation, this reactor is a capable partial solution, weapons grade plutonium and other materials can be used in the fuel, this allows Australia for the first time to account for it uranium exports as the use of this material in these reactors would substantially minimize the chance of Australian Uranium becoming part of the weapons cycle.
This coupled with the technology of Synroc, to encapsulate only fully fissioned fuel wastes, wastes that will have a lesser radioactive emission than the original uranium ore in less than 1000 years. It is a primary fundamental that nuclear energy in Australia will be a closed fuel cycle, it will be safe and the need is temporary, but critical to our needs and transition to a non carbon energy cycle.
To facilitate this storage in safety for future generations is paramount, it must be stored in a manner that is both economic and safe. The first option is logically to store the wastes in an area that is geologically stable, is not environmentally sensitive and has a workforce skilled and aware of nuclear safety. The logical conclusion then is to store the nuclear wastes in a repository that has these conditions, the exhausted shafts and reaches of existing Uranium mines are such places. The use of these cavities is not only logical but ensures the fuel cycle is fully closed, as the storage of the wastes return them to their place of origin, into a sealed system, that is completely and irrevocably sealed once processing stops. It would also provide a secondary income stream for the mining operations, to facilitate greater safety and productivity.
Update: Dave Bath provides a well-nuanced view